March 30th, 2009
02:41 PM ET
5 years ago

Obamas to use own cash to redecorate White House

The current Oval Office rug cost over $60,000 and was designed by former first lady Laura Bush.
The current Oval Office rug cost over $60,000 and was designed by former first lady Laura Bush.

(CNN) - The Obamas are using their own money to redecorate the White House residence and Oval Office, the White House confirms, forgoing the $100,000 in federal funds that is traditionally allotted to new presidents for such renovation projects.

The first couple - who made well over $2 million in 2008, largely from book revenues - is also turning down money from the White House Historical Association, the organization that financed a $74,000 set of china for the Bushes.

New presidents have traditionally undertaken extensive redecoration efforts to their personal quarters reflect their own tastes, with a new Oval Office rug tradition ringing in as the priciest item. Former President George W. Bush spent over $60,000 on a new cream carpet designed by Laura Bush in 2000 to replace the deep blue rug that covered the space during the Clinton administration. Obama aides have said the president likes the Bush rug, and does not plan to replace it.

The decision to forgo federal funds, first reported by New York Magazine, is the president's latest belt-tightening move amid the sagging economy and widespread outrage over corporate excesses. Late last month, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced the administration had put an order on hold for a fleet of new helicopters that will cost at least $11 billion.

But it remains unclear just how much money the couple plan to spend on redecorations. In January, the Obamas tapped high-profile interior designer Michael Smith to spearhead the project.

In accepting the position, Smith said affordability would be one of the "guiding principles."

"The family's casual style, their interest in bringing 20th Century American artists to the forefront and utilizing affordable brands and products will serve as our guiding principles as we make the residence feel like their home," he said.


Filed under: White House
soundoff (364 Responses)
  1. kevin

    ah yeah, the american tax payer pays this smuck. no one is saving here. when he spends money, its our money he is spending. all government officials get their salary from the american tax payer. ah all you people thinking he is doing a great think here, wake up ok. We surround them. we surround them.

    March 30, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. Mateo

    I can appreciate this story, but i've got to ask 2 questions:

    1) how much was spent for the inauguration celebration(s)? I remember there was a tons of criticizim over Bush's parties & i know TONS more $$ was spent for the Obama's during a horrible recession. And yet, no report or word has been said.

    2) at the start of his administration, Obama ordered a salary cap/freeze for those white house officials making over $100K per year to set a standard. is he himself following those guideline, i.e. not taking more than 100K of his presidential salary?

    i don't mean to come across as a jerk towards the president, i just don't like how the media highlights & applauds some of the good moves without balancing it out or even mentioning some other figures & stats (that Bush received without hesitation).

    March 30, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  3. Allen - Quebec - Canada

    Being a Canadian, I think it about time that the USA has someone in office that cares about the people and not just about there own well being.

    March 30, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Debra

    I am impressed. Hopefully we will see more of this from our elected officials.

    March 30, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. JWCB - Calif

    Not only is the First Family paying for the redecorating of the residence, but the President is keeping the $60K Oval Office rug from Bush. I agree with most above: WOW!

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  6. Texas Annie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    Get a life, people! The Obamas chose NOT to spend taxpayer money to redecorate. How can anybody complain about that? End of story.

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Sharon Johnson

    The right thing to do is to mind your business. Don't hate on them because they have the means to decorate without further strapping the public even though they are due that money. Hate on Haters!

    Keep up the good work Obama's . Good going! Why take it when you don't need it. First I have ever heard of any president doing this. In good or bad times.

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. Tony

    Aww I was really interested in what their rug was gonna look like.

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Theresa

    I can't believe this is a story!!!So what!!! And how is this political? This is a personal decision on their part, not bad, not good. The Bushes spending the money that was allotted was also not a political one, but a personal one. Again, not bad, not good.

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Rob

    Every President and his family should be able to modify the residential quarters of The White House, within a realm of reasonableness, to make their home space feel like home to them. For heaven's sake, they have no space of their own on the planet but their private quarters in their residences while in office to go to without armed guards surrounding them round the clock.

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    The Republicans didn't complain when Bush spent $74,000 on chinaware and $60,000 on a rug. Of taxpayer money.

    March 30, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. bildix

    Nevertheless, I bet that rug could use a good cleaning with all that dirt from the last eight years.

    March 30, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Jody Monroe

    WOW, I am really impressed! My hat's off to both Mr. & Mrs. Obama for putting their money where their mouth is - almost literally!!! More of us should follow their example.

    March 30, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. pam Eugene OR

    I find it very amusing that the President turned down about the same dollar amount that the Republicans spent to dress up Sarah Palin and her family.
    Yet the Republicans are finding fault with President Obama for NOT taking the money. You Republicans are hateful, bitter and poor losers. You have no problem with Bush spending billions of our taxpayer money and creating this mess. Those finding fault with this really need to get a life. Your hate will eat you alive. Wait, maybe that is a good thing!

    March 30, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. TheDurkinKnight

    Now all he has to do is take a 3/4 pay-cut and do the same to all the weasels in DC (especially Joan River's protoge, Nancy Pelosi) and he will finally be coming up with some pragmatic solutions.

    March 30, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  16. RAY IN NJ

    All I have to say is that all of the negativity by the Obama-haters is positive proof that no matter what he does they will take the opposite view! They will continue to find fault as they have no clue how to find any answers to today's problems brought about, largely, by the last President and their rich buddies! Negativity for 'negativity's' sake!! Childish and completely out of touch with the rest of America! I hope they continue because most people can't stand habitual complainers, something the Right often said during the last 8 years under Bush. Yes, continue so it'll ensure another term for PRESIDENT Obama (get used to it Rethugs – Obama WON!!!).

    March 30, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. MaryJo Bruce Surprise, Ariz

    We will find out at a later date that someone will look up an former Pres paid out of his own pocket for things. Lets just hope Obama taxes himself like hes going to do with the rest of us. So far we will be getting back $13 a pay period then after taxing that, its $8. Thank you so much. You need to keep it Obama. Cut down for a couple years with all of this giving, giving, giving till the economys back on its feet.

    March 30, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. Larry from RI

    Talking the talk and walking the walk!

    You can hear the wailing and gnashing of GOP teeth, (or is that tooth?)

    March 30, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. Jonesy

    you know the other view one could take is that he is using his money to BUY AMERICAN!!. This not only puts money back into the system it actually fits all of the principles he has stated.. If the $100,000 is used somewhere useful why should anyone complain?

    Frankly I think its patriot and I wish our other "leaders" would follow suit by using their own money instead of government money for their "needs" and "wants"

    March 30, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Penny

    Thank you Mr. President for being who you are and not letting the "haters" bring you down.

    March 30, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. marie independent

    aaaah, a president, practicing what he preaches ! Be still my heart, we are NOT used to having a president so honest, intelligent, this may take some getting used to ! Nah, I'm loving it already !

    March 30, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Donna

    And the carpers might want to remember that Sarah Palin spent $50,000 of the Wasilla taxpayers' money to redecorate her office when she became mayor. Her response when challenged? "I'm the mayor and I can do what I want until some court tells me I can't."

    March 30, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. JUGAL K BAKSHI

    It is not as much as the price tag which counts here but the thought
    itself is so noble and priceless.

    March 30, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. Justin

    How dare they save the taxpayers money!

    March 30, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  25. arithmetic is liberal

    If Obama said to all the conservatives on the Ticker that they should reach under their seats and find... a new car! Everyone gets a brand new car!...They'd complain about the color.

    March 30, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
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